While I’m often opposed to re-inventing characters, director Zack Snyder alters the story of Superman, not just for the sake of a new audience, but for dramatic benefit. The origin of Superman present in “Man of Steel” is a compelling and often gut-wrenching tale, followed by a wonderful glimpse at the introduction of Superman to a world in need of a savior. Director Zack Snyder hones much of the awe and grit from “Watchmen” and implants it in to “Man of Steel” where we’re given an exciting and often entertaining new Superman.
“Man of Steel” takes a cue from the animated series and explores the events leading to the destruction of Krypton, as well as the building of the villain Zod. Much of the world behind Kal-El is fascinating and Snyder is able to create an incredible back story with Russell Crowe giving an excellent turn as the bases for Kal-El’s heroism and sense of self-sacrifice. Much of “Man of Steel” is told through flashbacks that piece together the origin not only of Superman, but of Clark Kent the man. He’s felt like an outsider his entire life, and it sadly takes the death of his father to finally help him feel human. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are brilliantly cast as Martha and Jonathan Kent, two humble farmers that adopt Clark, and then have to spend most of their lives defending or reining in Clark, as he grows up and begins developing his extraordinary powers. We’re also given a glance in to the dynamic Clark had with Martha and Jonathan, and how they shaped him as a man.
Jonathan’s chemistry with a young Clark is especially interesting, as he discusses Clark’s growing sense of heroism, and how sometimes it’s dangerous to play god. Is it worth sacrificing the lives of others to keep Clark’s identity safe? Are Jonathan and Martha making wise moves by stifling Clark’s ability to help others? Director Snyder re-writes the death of Jonathan Kent in to an excellent parallel in to Superman’s own life, and focuses on a more thoughtful approach toward the character. After spending much of his time traveling the world, trying to find meaning after his dad’s death, Clark constantly finds himself stuck helping someone in great need. His search ends, when an alien force invades Earth, and their leader, a military general named Zod, demands to meet with Kal El aka Clark Kent. “Man of Steel” is a great reboot with Snyder adding a true sense of urgency and tension throughout the story.
Clark can do nothing more than come back in to society as Superman, and has to find a way to help the planet while defeating the rapidly growing threat of Zod and his army. That said, “Man of Steel” falters on occasion with an overlong story, and an odd avoidance of using the word Superman at any point. The Man of Steel is almost never identified as Superman, and it’s a shame the story couldn’t embrace his moniker. They streamlined everything else in the mythology, why not embrace the name? In either case, “Man of Steel” is still a remarkable tale of Superman, with a slew of memorable performances by Michael Shannon as Zod, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, and Henry Cavil, who embodies the humility and charisma required to bring Superman to life. “Man of Steel” really reworks the mythos to its benefit, as director Zack Snyder offers fans an exciting, dramatic, and brutally engrossing adaptation of the character. It’s definitely one of my favorite films of 2013; I wish we’d have gotten a true Superman sequel immediately following the carnage of Zod.
Among the slew of extras in the DVD/Blu-Ray Combo, is “Strong Characters, Legendary Role,” a twenty five minute look at the movie that pretends to be about the character himself. It’s a fun extra, but really only about Snyder’s Superman. “All Out Action” is a twenty six minute technical look at the physical aspect of the roles, as well as the set pieces. The six minute “Krypton Decoded” is a look at the visual effects sequence of the end of Krypton, and the two minute “Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short” which is a wonderful dedication to the character and his legacy. “Journey of Discovery: Creating man of Steel” is “Man of Steel” all over again, but with injected interstitial interviews, featurettes, and anecdotes on the production. Finally, “Planet Krypton” is a seventeen minute historical document of Krypton before and after its destruction.